Because I don’t drink enough water and don’t snack properly, come lunchtime on most days, I’m irrationally starving, and you had best stay out of my way. Such was the case when I strolled the other day from the Press Herald offices to 3Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille. En route, I saw a squirrel with an entire piece of toast in his mouth. I considered tackling him for it, thought better of it, and picked up the pace over the frozen sidewalks of Cumberland Avenue.
Let me get the location comments out of the way, and I truly say this with respect. The corner of Cumberland and Washington avenues in Portland is not where I expected to find a wonderful haven — a diamond in the rough, if you will — of delicious dining. But guess what? That’s exactly what I found, and shame on me for having that attitude in the first place.
3Buoys opened its Portland location in December (the other restaurant is in York). The new one is where Buffalo Wings N Things used to reside. I had never been there, so I don’t know what the interior looked like, but I can tell you that 3Buoys looked sensational: Bright and airy, with lots of natural light. Both low and high tables afford a variety of seating options. It had that certain je ne sais quoi quality to it that felt clean, homey and comfortable.
But let’s get down to brass tacks: The food. The menu is extensive, with a whole mess of fresh seafood plates ($14.99 to $23.99), rolls ($6.99 to $23.99), speciality sandwiches ($3.99 to $11.99), Life Boats ($7.99 to $23.99), Captain Willy’s Specialities ($12.99 to $29.99), Specialty Burgers ($4.99 to $9.99) and plenty of shore-side options, salads, fresh sides and, of course, chowders, bisques and stews.
OK, so here’s the thing: I don’t love seafood. I like it. But I don’t love it. However, I was determined to live the “when in Rome” motto, and although 3Buoys offers several landlubber options, I wanted my lunch to come from the salty sea.
Two words: clam strips. They’re technically seafood but without being overwhelming fishy or oddly textured. They’ve always been my seafood “go-to” choice, so I ordered the Clam Strip Roll with fries ($9.99) and hoped for the best.
Ten minutes later, I was out the door clinging to my takeout bag for dear life. I shaved at least four minutes off my time in the walk back to my office, propelled by the symphony of smells coming from the bag.
As calmly as I could, I laid out the meal on my desk and knew I was in for something special when I saw the hot dog roll that was home to a generous pile of clam strips. 3Buoys does it right. The roll was buttered and grilled to high-cholesterol perfection, and was the perfect home for the hot and crispy clams.
The feeding frenzy was on, and boy, was it ever good. The clam strips were plentiful and had enough flavor to interest me without being overwhelming. The fries were the large “steak” variety, and although I much prefer the “fast food” cut, if you think for one second I didn’t eat every last one of them — well, you’d be sorely mistaken.
I’m just getting started with 3Buoys, and will be paying it several future visits. Heck, it even serves breakfast. Pancakes, or as 3Boys likes to call them, Buoy Cakes, come in chocolate chip and blueberry. There’s also something called the Irish Sailor, which is two eggs over corned beef hash served with home fries and toast, and a bunch of omelette choices. Yum!
Welcome to the neighborhood, 3Buoys.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.